Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Christmas?

In my church culture growing up (and even recently in a Wednesday evening sermonette), it has been stressed that Christmas is not to be celebrated by Christians as a Holy Day, as it's not Biblically authorized, coming instead from a mingling of pagan celebrations and Catholic traditions.

Okay, if you don't want to celebrate Christmas in honor of Jesus' birth, I have no problem with that. Romans 14 makes it clear that people are going to come to different conclusions about such matters:
HCSB Rom 14:5 One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 Whoever observes the day, observes it to the Lord. Whoever eats, eats to the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is to the Lord that he does not eat, yet he thanks God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Paul continues that we should not offend one another in these issues, and that we are to get along, not looking down on one another over "doubtful issues" (v.1), saying that each of God's servants stands or falls before the Lord, not before us criticizers (v. 4), and that "stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand" (v. 4).

He finishes up this chapter with:
21 It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 Do you have faith? Keep it to yourself before God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.
This last line is often paired with Romans 10:17 ("faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God") to conclude that anything we do in a religious sense must be authorized by the written Word of God, but I believe that's mixing two different "faith" definitions. The Romans 10:17 faith is a faith that brings us into a saved relationship with Jesus; the Romans 14:23 faith is a confidence that we are not condemning ourselves by what we approve (v. 22), specifically in the realm of disputable matters such as eating of certain meets or observing certain holidays, etc, which Paul plainly states is okay either way so long as it's done in honor of the Lord.

Now, one final point:
HCSB Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a manger."
The written word of God said that the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people. Then these angels broke out in joyous praise, followed by a party-attitude of the shepherds, the old man Simeon, and the old woman Anna. Should we not also be allowed to have a party-attitude about the birth of Jesus?

If so, when? Every day? Once a month? Once a year? Twice in a lifetime? How often, and when, does the Scripture tell us to celebrate the birth of Jesus?

It doesn't.

But it does tell us that his birth is worth celebrating, for all the people, not just for those immediately involved. It seems to me that the frequency and timing has been left up to us.

But if you don't want to, that's between you and God, as Romans 14 says. On the other hand, if you do want to, that's between you and God, as Romans 14 says.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

Me,too. I bought a Nativity scene for a Christmas decoration one year. Then, being raised to believe that celebrating Jesus' birth was unauthorized, I felt guilty about it. I also felt kind of guilty about enjoying Christmas songs about Jesus. I got over the guilt about the Nativity scene by displaying it year round! I think I'm over that now. I don't think God will send us to hell for celebrating the birth of his son on a randomly chosen day of the year.